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OSLO (Reuters) - A record 237 people and organizations have been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, with interest boosted by last year's award to President Barack Obama, organizers said on Wednesday.
The world's media focused on the Peace Prize after Obama was the unexpected choice for what some see as the world's highest accolade, although he had been in office for just nine months and critics said he had only spelt out visions of peace.
"This is the highest number of nominations ... last year's prize to Barack Obama has further enhanced interest in the prize," Geir Lundestad, head of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, told Reuters.
"There are many different roads to peace and there are many different types of nominations ... (including) humanitarian organizations, environmental organizations, all kinds of statesmen and organizations that work for disarmament," he said.
Nominations have closed for 2010 and the total, which includes 38 organizations, is the highest since last year, when 205 contenders were considered by the secretive Norwegian Nobel Committee. The long-term trend shows the number of nominations is growing, Lundestad said.
This year's candidates include Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Chinese dissidents such as Liu Xiaobo, the Russian human rights group Memorial and its founder Svetlana Gannushkina, and the International Space Station programme.
Also in the running are Tim Berners-Lee, Larry Roberts and Vint Cerf, hailed as the creators of the Internet, as well as the European Union, a perennial candidate never yet chosen by the politically-appointed committee in this non-EU state.
The scope of the prize has grown from its roots in disarmament and peacemaking, expanding to human rights and even to the fight against climate change with the 2007 award to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
Critics say it has strayed too far from the intention of its creator, Swedish inventor and philanthropist Alfred Nobel, who endowed the prize in his 1895 will.
Nobel specified that the Peace Prize should be awarded for "the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."
Obama was awarded the prize for "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation" and his "vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."
Lundestad said that, in the past, nominations mainly came from Norway, Sweden, Germany and the United States, but in recent years the prize had become much more global.
"It is gratifying to see, not only a record number of organizations, but an ever more globalize list of candidates and people who have submitted nominations," he said.
The 2010 winner will be announced in Oslo in mid-October.
Editing by Andrew Dobbie